MercuryNews.com / Feb. 7, 2012
SAN DIEGO—Five out of every six calls to San Diego County seeking food stamps or other benefits don’t get through, and those that do face an average wait of more than 30 minutes, according to an internal county report obtained by U-T San Diego .
More than 350,000 calls don’t get answered every month because the county’s Health and Human Services Agency hasn’t hired enough workers or installed enough phone lines, according to a newspaper review of the report in a story published online Tuesday.
The system picks up about 68,000 calls a month, according to the report.
Of those, 40 percent are answered by a county employee; 24 percent of the callers hang up during the automated cycle; 21 percent get help in the automated system or get transferred; and 15 percent of the calls are answered by a contractor, the report said.
“Technology solutions are insufficient for the size of (Health and Human Services Agency) and not proactively anticipating the needs of the organization,” the study said.
County Health and Human Services Agency Director Nick Macchione told the newspaper he is committed to implementing recommendations from the study.
The county plans to boost call center staff from 59 to 155 and improve training for existing workers. Another 50 phone lines are to be added, bringing the total to 192, Macchione said.
The county has spent $3.6 million so far to improve access to food stamps, welfare and other services, Macchione said. The agency plans to spend even more on kiosk scanners for the welfare offices and making other technological improvements to streamline the application process, he said.
The report was written by InTelegy, a Northern California-based call center consulting firm.